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Underlying principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Informed by the Buddhist philosophy, Third wave models of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy and Compassion-Focused Therapy hold a common view that emotional suffering occurs when creative means of surviving difficult life events become repeated and fixed, and are no longer of service to the client. The psychotherapist works with the client to identify and validate the impact of significant life events, and the role that inhibiting or destructive ways of coping have helped the client to endure adverse experiences. Within a warm and transparent therapeutic relationship, Third wave approaches value using mindfulness, acceptance and compassion to cultivate flexibility in order to foster change, wellbeing and increased autonomy. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy and Compassion-Focused Therapy are also unique in their approach, more information about each approach is given below. Depending on how the client views their struggles, needs and hopes for the therapeutic process, the therapist can work from one approach or draw upon beneficial aspects from each approach.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy aims to make room for the client to explore what is of most importance within different life domains. This is used to navigate the course of therapy. The psychotherapist may use record sheets, metaphors and experiential exercises to assist the client to develop insight into problematic patterns of behaviour, as well as to cultivate an ability to willingly experience inhibiting and unwanted internal experiences in order to foster opportunities to take valued action and increase fulfilment in life.

Evidence for efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The research has shown that avoidance processes that underpin the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model are prevalent in the manifestation of a wide range of psychological and physical problems (Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, Lillis, 2006; A-Tjack, Davis, Morina, Powers, Smits, Emmelkampf, 2015). Relatedly, the research shows that ACT is conducive for motivation, psychological flexibility and commitment to participating in self-defined valued actions within different life domains (Smout, Hayes, Atkins, Klausen, Duguid, 2012).

Issues Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help with:

  • Unclear values
  • Stuckness
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Inactivity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • OCD
  • Self-harm
  • Eating issues
  • Addiction
  • Medically Unexplained Symptoms
  • Chronic pain
  • Psychosis


Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

  • To become clear about what is of true importance in life
  • To develop awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories and physical sensations and their impact on unhelpful behaviours
  • To gain control over impulsive, reactive or inactive behavioural tendencies
  • To develop an ability to commit to valued-actions and goals
  • To gain a greater sense of autonomy and purpose in life


Individuals Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is suited to:

Individuals who find they are easily caught up in their internal experiences such as thoughts, memories, emotions or physical sensations. And, who find they are stuck in repeated patterns that may have come to have an adverse effect on other areas of life. This model of therapy is also suitable for individuals who are unsure of what they want in life or find that their means of coping with unwanted emotional experiences is inhibiting them to live a full and meaningful life.


Therapists who practice using this model

Dr Sophia Gazla (BSc, MRes, DCounsPsych, CPsychol)

Dr Gazla’s therapeutic approach is best described as pluralistic. Rooted in Humanistic and Existential psychotherapy values, Dr Gazla places a great importance on developing a trusting and collaborative therapeutic relationship to work with clients’ hopes and needs for the therapy process. This may include offering a safe space for clients to express and explore their difficulties confidentially, to work relationally to better understand how past relationships have influenced present ways of interpreting and relating to others and the world, or to focus on developing helpful strategies and skills to improve wellbeing. Dr Gazla draws upon contemporary ‘Third Wave’ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques that can help to understand and reduce harmful behaviours and improve relationships with oneself and others, as well as foster psychological health and valued living. Dr Gazla applies these approaches to work effectively with issues such as anxiety, depression, eating issues, addiction, intrusive thoughts, harmful behaviours, medically unexplained symptoms, relationship problems, as well as general life challenges, in short-term or long-term therapy.


A-Tjak, J. G., Davis, M. L., Morina, N., Powers, M. B., Smits, J. A., & Emmelkamp P. M., (2015) A meta-analysis of the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy for clinically relevant mental and physical health problems.  Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 84(30), 30-36.

Smout, M.F., Hayes, L., Atkins, P.W.B., Klausen, J., & Duguid, J.E. (2012). The empirically supported status of acceptance and commitment therapy: An update. Clinical Psychologist, 16, 97-109.

Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J., Bond, F., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes, and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(1), 1-25.

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